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The Rundown: Mike Boynton on Signing Cade Cunningham, Rondel Walker

Mike Boynton says he doesn’t think OSU is finished in this early signing period.



STILLWATER — Mike Boynton can finally say the words “Cade Cunningham” to the media.

Cunningham, the No. 2 recruit in the 2020 class, signed his letter of intent to Oklahoma State on Wednesday, meaning Boynton can now talk publicly about his incoming star. Boynton met with local media for the first time since signing Cunningham and Rondel Walker on Friday.

Boynton also mentioned some on his team’s upcoming game against Yale, but we’ll stick to recruiting only quotes from Boynton for this Rundown.

• On how big this class is for him and the program: “It’s huge. I think sometimes, and it’s no one’s fault, it’s just not being inside the workings of the process, when you first take over a program it takes a little while to figure out what you’re trying to do long term. This was a class that we identified pretty early on that was going to be pretty significant for us. We kinda got an idea of establishing who you are, what your needs are, what you wanna do in terms of style of play. So for basically three years now we’ve targeted this class as being one that we wanted to have a major impact. But also try to sign an elite-level player, and obviously we feel like we accomplished that.”

“There was a plan. Obviously as far as Cade, I had already been recruiting him by the time I took over. I was pretty relentless in my pursuit, and here we are today.”

• On how many times he went to go see Cunningham: “As many as you’re able to take. I didn’t miss any opportunities to go see him, that’s for sure. I saw him for the first time in September the year I was an assistant in 2016. We played in Maui that year, and I took the red-eye back from Maui and went straight to his high school to watch him play right off the plane. I was there with about 12 other people, all of which were parents of one or the other team because it was like a 1 o’clock game Thanksgiving weekend. It wasn’t a whole lot of people.

“There was a big event going on about three miles away where all the other coaches were, so I was happy being the only one in the building watching him that day.”

• On what he saw in Cunningham before Cunningham was so highly sought after: “I think he was (an elite-level prospect). I really do. You do this long enough, just like anything, you just see something different sometimes that maybe you’re not accustomed to seeing, especially with young kids. Their poise, the way he was able to articulate things he was trying to accomplish, his maturity level, his unselfishness. I really thought he was a senior to be perfectly honest when I first saw him.

“I went to his coach and asked him, ‘Hey, what’s going on with that kid, is he going to sign late this year?’ or something like that, maybe thinking that if he was, he was about 6-5 at the time. If he was a senior, I was probably going to try to help him go to maybe a Southland-level school or something like that. When his coach told me that he was a freshman, I immediately knew that I needed to go outside the box and do something I did not do very often as an assistant, which was offer him a scholarship immediately.”

• On Cunningham’s official visit: “It was great. He didn’t visit here until this September. It was the first time he had actually been on campus. We had talked about it multiple times. The plan was last year to make a visit, then when he changed schools to go down to Montverde (Florida) made it much more difficult to get him here during the season.

“The opportunity presented itself this fall. We were pretty entrenched in the recruitment at that time. I think for him, it was kind of validation. Our relationship was strong, the things I told him about our program. When he came, it wasn’t like it was a huge (football) game. We played McNeese, no disrespect to them from a football standpoint, but it wasn’t Homecoming and Hoops, it wasn’t Bedlam, it wasn’t anything like that. But he felt that it was important. He felt that our basketball program was a big deal. He came in here and saw the banners and felt like he wanted to try to have an impact on making one happen himself.”

• On if he envisioned signing two Top 25 classes in his first three seasons as a head coach: “Yeah, and not arrogantly at all. I just believe that work wins. I believe that our staff has put in the work that it takes to convince guys, or help them understand I should say because we don’t try to convince them we want them to believe it for themselves, that this is a place that you can achieve anything. That you can go on and be an NBA Draft pick. You can win a national championship and make deep runs in the tournament. You can play at the highest level against the best competition year in and year out. You’re gonna play a great schedule every year, which we’ve proven that we’ll try to put together. Again, not an arrogant way, I just believe in what we do because I believe in the work we put in.”

• On if the end of Cunningham’s recruitment process was stressful for him: “Not at all. None of it is stressful for me. I really don’t have time to stress about it. I’m constantly trying to figure out what else to do to help the situation. We talked literally every day, same thing with the Boones. Even with some kids we haven’t gotten. I remember vividly getting in a car after some games and driving seven hours to St. Louis and driving back here two years ago, and that one (Courtney Ramey) didn’t work out. It’s never stressful because I believe we’re doing it the right way. We’ll get the kids who want to be here, that want to help us do what we think we can do to help.”

• On how big an influence Cannen Cunningham was to get Cade: “It was huge. I’m not gonna discount that it was a nonfactor. My job, in terms of our staff, is to hire the people we think can help us do the things that we want to do. One of an assistant coach’s primary jobs is to recruit. There’s this notion that we shouldn’t hire someone like that. I say, every assistant coach is hired to get players. So I don’t understand why then it would be a problem when there’s more of a chance that you could actually get a really good player. But if we don’t have the relationship established for three years, I’m not sure it matters because if we don’t recruit him for two years before the other schools are involved, then it’s hard to get over the hump.

“I’m not gonna say his brother’s hiring didn’t help. I like to think that our relationship was a factor as well, and that he believes he can come in here and accomplish all of his goals regardless.”

• On Rondel Walker: “We want the best players in the state every year to know that Oklahoma State is the place to go, that their families can come watch them play, that they’re gonna play against the highest level of competition in college basketball and that this is a program that they should be able to take pride in. Having a kid like Rondel Walker, who’s not only a great player and going to get better. His best years are probably two years down the road, just physically needing to mature a little bit. But he’s a great student, almost a 4.0 (GPA), a great kid. And obviously he’s a pretty good recruiter because as much as Cannen was involved, Rondel Walker was a big piece to this deal, too.”

• On recruiting the Oklahoma: “I never recruited the state of Oklahoma before (coming to OSU). So to get in and be able to establish the type of relationships you need to give people confidence that’s you’ll be able to deliver on some of the things you expect to be done, but also that your program can have success in ways that these kids wanna have. Again, it’s a testament to our staff.

“They’ve done a great job of continuing to knock on doors. Sometimes they’ll open immediately, but if you knock on them long enough, even if they’re just annoyed, they’ll at least listen to you. I think our persistence and our consistency, and I think being honest with people because again in recruiting, it doesn’t matter in my mind if you’re Cade Cunningham or Keylan Boone or Jonathan Laurent, we don’t promise you anything. We establish exactly what it’s gonna be like. What I love about Cade and Rondel is they want to be coached. Those are the type of kids we wanna have.”

• On how important the 2020 class is with OSU’s seniors on their way out: “Every class is important. I don’t put any more significance on next year’s class. On paper, we don’t have a junior, so technically we don’t have a scholarship to give in 2021. I’m pretty certain that we’re gonna have one because one of the kids coming in is very likely not going to be here the following year. We’re going to recruit as aggressively as we can every single year and try to bring the best talent that we can that fits what we do and want to help us win at the level we want to win at.”

• On players recruiting players: “It’s huge. The best recruiters you’re gonna have are guys who have already played for you. One thing I say all the time is, you can’t fool kids. They know real from not real. They can tell when someone asks how they’re doing if they actually mean that or if they’re just trying to get to something else.

“We try to really establish that we’re gonna care about you, we’re gonna coach you, we’re not gonna make you any promises. We feel like the best players, the guys that can helps us win at the level we wanna win, that’s the message they wanna hear. They don’t wanna be promised that they’re gonna start or be promised that they’re gonna play a certain amount of minutes. But they’ll have an opportunity.

“So, having other guys buy into that … I’m on Twitter. I’m not on Snapchat or Instagram or any of the other stuff, so I miss out a lot on some of the interaction with the kids, which I’m cool with. I don’t know if I wanna go all the way into the soup of social media craze. Having kids who have bought in so well that they want to recruit other good players because we’re talking about kids they’re going to compete with also. So having kids buy in that they want to be a part of something, even if it means that they’ve gotta sacrifice some on the front end, it’s pretty special.”

• On if he anticipates any more letters coming in this early signing period: “I don’t think that we’re finished yet. I can say that with pretty strong confidence.”

• On how good a recruiter Cade can be: “We talked about it as a staff today. We’re still going to recruit, at our foundation, inside out. The state will always be most important, then Texas, Dallas specifically because of proximity, Kansas some, Arkansas a little bit. That will be the core of our recruiting year in and year out. But, (Cunningham) is going to give us an opportunity to open national eyes. There will be a national audience tuning into see how he does, what this looks like for him. His experience is going to be important for us continuing to recruit that level of player because we haven’t had a ton of them. It’s been a guy here or there, Jawun (Evans), Marcus (Smart), but over the course of our history, it’s not like every year we’re churning out five-star guys. So being able to have him come here and say, ‘I believe in what they’re doing. I believe we can win at the highest level,’ and then going out and saying that to other kids, it’s going to be really, really important as we continue to build it.”

• On if anything changes once the early signing period closes: “It changes from year to year. It depends on what your needs are. We have some needs we still have to address, and as the signing period closes, we’ll evaluate where we are at that point. If we’ve gotten those needs taken care of, we may shift to a different mentality, maybe more aggressive looking at 2021. Or, we’ll try to figure out, ‘What do we need to help us get to the next level for next season.'”

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